SAN JOSE, CA — The city and its police union reached a tentative agreement on pay and other work conditions Tuesday, marking a significant step toward finally undoing a years-long political fight that helped fuel an exodus of nearly a third of San Jose’s police officers in less than a decade and left the city scrambling to patrol its streets.
Under the proposed terms, officers in the San Jose Police Department would receive a 20-percent raise phased in over the next three years, starting with 10-percent bump in the 2017-18 fiscal year. The raise includes a 3.75 percent pay increase phased over two years for completing crisis-intervention training, which Chief Eddie Garcia made mandatory department-wide last year.
Officers would also receive an immediate one-time $5,000 retention bonus upon the finalization of the contract.
“Our top priority is rebuilding this police department, and this contract gives us a clear path forward,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “With this contract, we are now competitive.”
The agreement, subject to ratification by the rank-and-file with a formal vote expected in the coming weeks, was forged on the shoulders of a previous agreement that was beset by legal challenges by taxpayer advocates and spurred the city to put it on a ballot measure last November that voters passed.
It also comes amid cooperation between the city, union and police administration that had been unprecedented in the past decade.
“We are committed to recruiting and retaining as many officers as possible and this contract is an extremely important step toward achieving that goal,” Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement.
That same trinity backed declaring a technical state of emergency in August that allowed Garcia to override the existing police contract to reallocate officers and buoy undermanned street patrols.
Some of that emergency plan included further entrenching mandatory overtime to maintain minimal patrol staffing, which under the new agreement would be phased out once the department reaches its authorized staffing level that is currently 200 officers away from being reached.
City administrators and the union reached a pact in the summer of 2015 aimed at undoing many of the austerity-driven retirement and benefit reductions brought on by the 2012 voter-approved Measure B ballot initiative. The new pact eventually evolved into the Measure F initiative this past November.
Garcia and the union both argued that the new terms were crucial in stemming the labor strife that plagued the department and helped drive staffing from more than 1,400 in 2008 down to the current total of about 900.
Today’s authorized staffing level of 1,109 officers — which reflects available spots, not actual officers — is the same as it was in 1986, when the city’s population was more than 40 percent smaller. And the size of the actual police force has similarly not been this small since the mid-1980s.
Garcia and city leaders argued that this labor agreement would eliminate competitive obstacles that have stymied recruiting, as prospective applicants flocked other regional agencies that offered better pay and retirement plans. Police academy classes in San Jose reached anemic levels in the past few years — with a nadir of less than 10 in one instance — and are gradually building back up.
“I have been extremely proud of our officers during these trying times, and they are among the hardest working officers in the country,” Garcia said in statement. “Our goal has been to once again be the safest city in the country, and the steps taken recently by our City leaders will establish the foundation to achieve this benchmark.”
Department insiders also say many prospective applicants and potential lateral hires have been waiting for the new terms to take effect before joining the ranks in San Jose. The new agreement would sweeten that process for existing officers, who would be eligible for incentives of up to $7,500 recruiting cadets or officers from other agencies.
Should the agreement reached Tuesday gain final approval, the city and police department will be under considerable public pressure to begin delivering on its pledges to replenish a storied police department that was once a destination of aspiring cops from around the country.
It remains to be seen how that rebuild would be affected by a new provision requiring police academy graduates to pay back an amortized portion of their training costs if they leave before completing five years of service to the city. The “clawback” had been previously proposed by the city, and until today was generally resisted by the union.
The inclusion of that provision was inspired by frustration from past city councils over officers who were trained by SJPD leaving for other agencies not long after graduating, essentially leaving the city routinely footing the bill to train officers for other municipalities.
The union took a neutral stance on the issue, and Liccardo said it was a necessary act of good faith to the residents who will be funding the police raises.
“If taxpayers are paying more, they deserve to be protected from instances where cadets are simply coming to San Jose to get their training and then move on to a quieter suburb,” Liccardo said. “It’s important that we attract the best and brightest, but it only works if we keep them here.”
The tentative agreement reached Thursday between the city of San Jose and San Jose Police Officers’ Association is considered the final piece of a years-long effort to end labor strife within the police department. Among the highlights:
- A 20-percent raise phased in over three years, starting with 10-percent bump in the 2017-18 fiscal year
- Raise includes a 3.75 percent pay increase phased in over two years for completing crisis-intervention training
$5,000 one-time retention bonus to current officers upon ratification of agreement
- Dedicating 18 patrol officer positions to community policing in high-crime and gang-affected areas of the city
- Civilianizing several administrative positions, including deputy chief and public information officer spots
- Incentives of up to $7,500 for recruiting cadets or lateral officers from other agencies
- Requiring police academy graduates to pay back their training costs if they leave before five years of service, amortized to that term